Information on email marketing for small and medium-sized businesses, online stores, and bloggers
Sometimes the world of email marketing can seem a little complicated. How do you make sure your subscription process won’t get you into legal trouble? How do you maintain your list of subscribers? And how do you even get subscribers in the first place?
We’re going to answer these questions (and a few more) in this article, alongside a step-by-step guide on how to create and send newsletters.
An email newsletter is an email which is sent out either regularly, or just once, and it can be in HTML or plain text format. An ever-increasing number of businesses have moved away from a traditional printed subscriber magazine to digital media, such as email newsletters.
There are four kinds of email newsletters:
Now, if you compare the advantages and disadvantages, you will probably realize that email marketing has its place, but more than that, you might also come to the conclusion that you should start your own email marketing program.
The following video shows you how an email newsletter is created, using GetResponse as an example. As is the case with most providers, GetResponse offers a graphical editing interface. Using the drag & drop editor, you can add the building blocks you want to your newsletter. It’s incredibly easy, and you don’t need any programming skills.
Newsletter creation starts at minute 1:25.
> Click here for some in-depth reviews on a variety of newsletter tools.
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In order to run a newsletter mailing list, an absolute must is list management. This will enable you to maintain a list of subscribers in a database and filter and sort them into groups. Depending on the software, integration into CRM systems may be possible, but it’s not always a simple task.
And then you’ll need an editor in order to create a newsletter. One of the features you’ll need is the ability to test the design in some of the most popular email and webmail clients (such as Outlook, Gmail, and Apple Mail).
But don’t forget that you also need some well-defined processes, such as subscribing and unsubscribing, as well as a way to deal with invalid email addresses.
Watch this video to learn about eight key features you should be looking for in a newsletter software:
A lot of components come together when sending out an email newsletter: a software or web application which is used to create the newsletter, and an email server which is used to send out the newsletter. Generally speaking, you’re free to manage each of these components separately: You install the newsletter software on your server or client computer, and then you use the email server provided by your web hosting provider (e.g. Namecheap or GoDaddy).
Unfortunately, most of these email servers are not suitable for sending out a massive number of emails. Most servers shut you down when you try to send out several hundred emails in an hour. One way to deal with this issue is moving to an external email server such as Mailjet or SendInBlue.
Another option, which is really more theoretical than anything else, is running your own email server. A quick cost/benefit analysis often makes this an unrealistic option for most small businesses. Sending out emails isn’t that much of a problem, but if your email server doesn’t have a good reputation as a sender, your emails won’t be accepted by major email services such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL etc.
If you want to take the easy way out, you can opt for a hosted email system. This means that the provider doesn’t only give you access to the newsletter software itself, but takes care of maintenance as well as deliverability for you. These kinds of newsletter tools are our focus here at EmailToolTester:
In theory, sending out HTML emails is free. You just open up your usual email program (e.g. Outlook) and you’re good to go. However, you’ll probably run into several problems rather quickly. First of all, creating HTML emails in Outlook is rather complicated, and secondly, you have no means of analysis or automating subscriptions or unsubscribes.
However, a good newsletter tool doesn’t have to be expensive. There are several providers who offer plans that are completely free. Even if you need expert features, and your subscriber list keeps on growing and growing, your marketing budget may very well be able to handle this quite easily. For instance, if you want your email newsletters to reach 5,000 people in a month, you’re looking at somewhere between $25 and $45. And if your emails go out at irregular intervals you can use a prepaid plan, meaning you only pay when you actually send a newsletter to your subscribers.
Go ahead and check out our newsletter calculator if you want to get a better idea of how much email marketing might cost you! Just enter the number of emails you think you might want to send in a month, and the calculator will tell you what the most popular providers have to offer.
There are two legal concepts you should know about:
The CAN SPAM Act states that you can send (almost) as many emails as you want so long as the recipient does not unsubscribe (opt-out principle). However, there are a number of email services (such as Mailchimp) which will demand proof of an existing opt-in for your subscribers.
This is simply due to the fact that it’s not good for a newsletter provider when large numbers of people complain about emails sent through their servers. Many people will simply mark your newsletter as spam and, all of the sudden, the email service provider’s server is moved to a blacklist. Obviously, the provider will want to avoid that.
EU and Canada
Within the EU and in Canada, there’s a different principle. In this case, you need to be able to prove that the recipient explicitly subscribed to your newsletter. The best way of doing this is through a double opt-in procedure where the subscriber receives a confirmation email in which they have to click on a link in order to actually join the mailing list.
There are some exceptions – existing business relationships, for instance. If you have a current customer, you can usually send them emails without their explicit consent. If you want to find more information on legal questions regarding email newsletters, follow this link to read up on the legal situation in the USA, Canada, and the EU.
What about purchased email lists?
There are providers who try to sell you such lists and, in some cases, they even have opt-in proof which would hold up in a court of law. However, most email services we know of won’t let you use those kinds of lists. They don’t want to risk their good sender reputation, so they prohibit the use of purchased mailing lists. Statistics clearly show that the number of complaints is higher than the number of successful clicks for such lists.
In the long run, your best strategy is good content. If your content adds value to people’s lives in some way, they will talk about, and recommend, it. So try and stay away from sales-driven advertising emails as much as possible. Instead, we recommend you use email marketing to invest in good customer relations.
You can also boost your subscription numbers by offering benefits: Our sister site, WebsiteToolTester, for instance, found out that offering a free ebook to every new subscriber caused significant growth (by a factor of ten in this case). A pop-up can get you even further – but be careful not to annoy your readers!
All you need is the right provider?
> Here’s our newsletter tool comparison
More tips and tools can be found here:
> Also take a look at our free email marketing resources